Tag Archives: Group focuses

Kaleidoscopic boundary tones

Date: 24/10/2022

Cong Zhang gave us a talk on boundary tones in Mandarin. 

Background information:

Intonational tunes are generally made up of pitch accents and edge/boundary tones. The intonation in a tonal language is difficult to phonologise as F0 can be modulated by the effects of lexical tone, lexical prominence (stress), tone sandhi, sentence prominence (focus) and sentence type (function), etc. The overarching research question is: Is there intonation in Chinese? If there is, then how to differentiate the lexical-level tone and sentence-level intonation? 

The tone systems of Tianjin Mandarin:

  • Tianjin Mandarin is a dialect spoken by residents in the Tianjin municipality, which is near Beijing. 
  • The data was transcripted based on ToBI, a prosodic transcription system based on AM.
  • Floating boundary tone: a type of boundary tone that modifies the original lexical tone contour and it deters the falling tones from falling and facilitates the rising tone with rising. Such a tone has no phonetic realisation itself, but has a phonological effect in triggering a higher last tone. 
  • Mean F0 range was used to compare the prosodic patterns of questions (Q) and statements (S) in Tianjin Mandarin.  
  • The main results found: a. Q has a higher register (mean pitch) than S. b. The falling tones (L, HL) have a smaller pitch range in Q than in S, while the rising tones (H, LH) have a larger pitch range in Q than in S. 

Functional Principal Component (fPCA) Analysis:

  • fPCA is used to analyse the boundary between onsets and rhymes in the study
  • Complex boundary tones can be used in Tianjin Mandarin for diverse communication purposes, including extra emphasis, objection, correction, sajiao (being cute), showing off and sarcasm. 
  • Summary: Tianjin Mandarin has bi-tonal boundary tones. 

The issues to be looked at next:

  1. What are the functions? Are some of these functions paralinguistic?
  2. How to elicit data in a more controlled environment?
  3. Do bi-tonal boundary tones only exist in northern Mandarin varieties and speakers?